Cultivating millennial leadership for the fourth industrial revolution

Despite many labeling it a marketing buzzword, Industry 4.0, a.k.a. the fourth industrial revolution, represents significant transformation that cannot be ignored, as businesses are increasingly able to optimise operations with the support of connected smart machines that keep getting smarter as they access more data.

In the 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey, only 36% of millennials were confident that they have the skills required for Industry 4.0. Soft skills were regarded as increasingly necessary with the top essential skills being reported as interpersonal skills (36%), confidence and motivation (35%), and ethics and integrity (33%).

Young employees are however not looking towards universities and business schools as a training ground to cope with the evolving complexity of the future. They expect business to craft a fit-for-purpose development plan and offer focused support on their continuous development journey. When positioned and contracted appropriately, this process can indeed become a meaningful and purpose-driven roadmap, yielding not only positive individual returns, but also creating real and measurable value for the organisation itself.

The rules of development

Where modern-day and future-oriented people development are concerned, organisations do benefit from implementing an end-to-end process that is holistic, technologically enabled where beneficial, and informed by science and research.

Yet, this is exactly where the challenge lies. Too often, behavior development initiatives are positioned and experienced as once-off or random energy injections with the expectation that it will lead to sustainable change. This is as illogical as expecting that eating vegetables for a whole day and exercising 10 hours straight once a month will lead to weight loss.

A holistic development process can be unpacked along the following core and recurring steps: Map, Measure, and Mobilise. This allows for scalable but appropriate solutions that facilitate positive progress and action learning through continuous review and recalibration.

Map is for clarity

Understanding the context and strategic goals of the organisation are key elements to determine the future requirements of leader behavior to successfully deliver on the strategic intent of the organisation. There will be generalisable elements across most companies, but there are also unique aspects linked to the organisational lifecycle, the underlying culture, the stakeholder expectations, and the company-specific challenges that will have to be taken into consideration.

This leadership blueprint then becomes the aspirational benchmark that employees can identify with and integrate into their development journey. It goes without saying that this blueprint stays a work in progress and needs to be reviewed and calibrated continuously to ensure ongoing relevance.

Measure is for Insight

Once there is a clear understanding of the requirements, it becomes possible to measure the fit of an individual to the demands of the context. Determining individual bench strength with scientific rigor includes a combination of the elements that make up a person’s potential (underlying ability, preferences and values), competence (demonstrated ability to perform) and reputation (the perception of others).

It is during this exploration phase that a skilled expert, together with a committed line manager have to challenge the individual to appreciate the following: natural strengths; how strengths can support areas of development; stress reactions to be managed; the potential impact of derailing behaviours on self and others; motivational requirements; resilience and emotional hygiene factors; and also aligning these with career aspirations and the organisational reality.

Mobilise is for change

The hard work starts once a dynamic development plan has been crafted that aligns to the overall strategic organisational goals. The best intentions for change will fall flat if it is not monitored and measured as part of the key deliverables the individual needs to realise.

A personalised plan that is dynamic and consists of the right mix of eLearning, skills development, coaching, mentoring, business projects, rotation, and enough opportunity for continued robust feedback will cater to the requirements of the organization as well as discerning future leaders.

Ultimately, success will come to those who see development as a lifelong learning experience. They will have to future-proof themselves through being open to continuous learning. Organisations who are up to the challenge of investing in and driving people development will reap the rewards in having leaders who can take ownership, proactively solve business problems, and support the workforce to deal effectively with the future.

By Dr Renate Scherrer‚ MD of JvR Consulting Psychologists